Monday, December 12, 2011

Kids Lessons on Learned Behaviors of Animals

Students' own pets, including kittens, can provide examples of learned behaviors in animals.

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Animal behavior, also known as ethology, is a potentially complicated subject. Engaging lesson plans can help teachers introduce the basics of this topic to children. The best plans directly involve young students, encouraging their appreciation for the ways in which animals learn. Videos and field trips can galvanize the instruction further.

Related Searches: Pavlov's Dog

Ivan Pavlov's experiment with canines ranks as fundamental in education on animal behavior. A lesson plan on Pavlov's research best begins with a presentation on his work, which induced salivation in dogs at the sound of a bell. Instructors should encourage students to think of their own experiences with learned animal behavior. Many children likely own pets that quickly appear at the sound of a can opener or walking leash. If possible, a teacher can stage an experiment in which a mouse or hamster is slowly conditioned to respond to a certain sound.

The BBC and Learning in Wildlife

Domesticated dogs and cats are not the only creatures that exhibit learned behavior. Colobus monkeys, eyelash vipers and North Pacific giant octopuses, among other wildlife, also pick up important skills for their survival. The British Broadcasting Company, famed for its coverage of the natural world, has resources that can make for a dynamic lesson plan on behavior in animals. Its website features videos that teachers can use to introduce students to examples of wildlife learning. After each video, a discussion can take place, centered on how and why the animal acquires a particular ability.

Humans and Animal Learning

Students should understand that animal behavior is no mere school subject but rather a real concept that can be made into a career. Learning about ethologists can help achieve this. Ethologists observe animals, sometimes for weeks on end, to record their behavior. These scientists sometimes discover new and important learned behaviors in their subjects. As an activity, teachers can organize a zoo field trip, where each student selects an animal and notes its actions. Students also can imagine themselves as the animals, trying to perceive how people behave.

SeaWorld and Marine Mammals

Yet another career in animal behavior is that of a trainer. A visit to SeaWorld, or another marine animal park, can help young students witness learned animal behavior firsthand. Such parks frequently feature exciting shows where animals execute a trainer's commands as a result of positive reinforcement, a humane method of teaching behavior. SeaWorld publishes a helpful handout on animal behavior and training, complete with lessons that can engage students. Students can play "Hot and Cold," tell "A Story Without Words" and complete an "I Train the Dolphin" coloring book.

ReferencesTeacherVision: Pavlov's DogsBBC Nature: LearningPBS: Animal Einsteins: Thinking About ThinkingSeaWorld: Animal Behavior and Training K–3 Teacher’s GuidePhoto Credit Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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